Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Crumbling Pedestal :: 37 :: Skipping Along

37 • Skipping Along

Heru slumped into a chair the moment Draco was out the door. “I don’t need this, you know.” Severus gave him a patient look. “Well, I don’t. Stupid complications.”

“Complications which may be to our benefit.”

“Well I’m glad you can see something positive in this, because I sure as hell don’t.”

“I suggest we talk to Mark first.”

“Fine.” Heru summoned their son, and Mark arrived several moments later.

Once he had sat down, Severus spoke. “We have a situation which may involve you.” He summarized what had happened during Draco’s visit, then said, “So, it is your decision whether or not you would prefer to stay out of this entirely.”

Mark looked at his father. Heru spread his hands and shrugged slightly. There was a long pause, several minutes worth, before Mark responded. “I don’t have any friends in Slytherin house. Not one. Wouldn’t it be a bit odd if suddenly Draco and I are being nice to each other?”

Heru smiled slightly. If nothing else was clear, it was evident that his son had a good head on his shoulders.

“And, I expect if I did anything obvious, certain friends I do have would react quite badly.”

“Mr Weasley?” Heru asked softly.

Mark nodded. “I guess I could. . . . Well, maybe not.”

“What?”

Mark wrinkled his nose. “It doesn’t matter, because it’s too obvious. The only people I could reasonably approach are first years.”

“Then perhaps it is not so unfortunate that you have been having trouble with your potions,” said Severus smoothly. Mark opened his mouth to speak, then shut it and waited. “I have been meaning to suggest you join the revision group for first year Slytherins, but feared that you would find the idea insulting.”

Mark tilted his head to the side as Heru said blandly, “It’s up to you, of course, but if you’re having difficulties, or simply want more practice time. . . .”

“Well. . . .” Mark dipped his head briefly, as though in shame. “I didn’t want you to be disappointed in me. But if you think it’s a good idea. . . .” He glanced up at them from beneath his lashes.

“Mm. Wednesday evenings, Mark. Directly after dinner. Potions classroom.”

“Yes, dad.”

*

Draco did not return a week later; he did not need to. When Wednesday evening rolled around, things became a bit more clear. Severus reported to Heru afterward that the boy had caught on quite quickly. As one of the best Potions students in Slytherin, he was one of those who spent time helping during those sessions for house points. That he had been assigned to watch over Mark was hardly a coincidence.

Mark had managed in one evening to charm several of the first years and had been invited to visit the next evening. He did not, however, sit at the Slytherin table the morning following his first trip into the Slytherin common room. Heru assumed that Draco had enough sense to write his father and tell him that he had begun to establish some kind of relations with Mark.

That weekend Heru freed Remus from his curse. With the influence of the moon at its weakest, he figured it was the safest time to take care of the issue. Naturally, as had happened when he had removed Severus’s Dark Mark, Heru vaguely resembled a limp dishrag when he was done.

By the time the next full moon rolled around, they were ready. Heru had kept the cage in his basement out of necessity. It was less of a waste of magical energy to simply leave it in place than to remove it and conjure it back into place. Remus and Sirius entered it a second time, wide-eyed looks of hope on their faces as Heru closed the door and locked it.

As he had fully expected, there was no sign of the moon’s influence on Remus and he did not transform. Heru did not, however, release the two men until the moon had set, just in case, and they remained in Heru’s home for the next two days. As the Easter holiday began the next day, there was no need for subterfuge on Heru’s part, for there were no classes he needed to cover.

Two days later, however, on Easter itself, Voldemort moved, well before the end of the six month time limit Heru had given him. The Order member on duty that night was duly warned and managed to stay out of the way, not to mention get out with his life. A number of people were watching as Voldemort slipped into the Ministry and down to the Department of Mysteries.

Those same people were watching as he retrieved the prophecy sphere, and subsequently returned to his hideout, then triggered the contents. In point of fact, Voldemort heard no more than his spy had all those years ago, because at that point Albus cut in with a message of his own.

“Hello, Tom. I don’t think you need to hear any more of the prophecy. Harry Potter may have found death while in your tender care, but I am not such a fool as to leave this particular aspect of things unprotected once I realized your intent. Terribly sorry, dear boy, but that’s how things are. You’ll just have to accept that I anticipated you this time, and won this round. Consider it a return gift, humble though it may be.”

To say that Voldemort’s reaction was poor would be to understate the case. Peter, unfortunate soul, happened by within minutes of the incident and was promptly flung head first into a wall. The quite audible snap of his neck made Voldemort pause long enough to flash a strange smile before he continued in his attempts to destroy anything left standing, and several people who made the same mistake as Peter.

*

On the day that the students who had left for Easter were to return, a letter arrived at breakfast for Heru.

Mr Slytherin,

I trust this finds you and your son in good health. Having little time at the moment, I must press on directly to the point and hope that you can forgive the necessity.

My associate would like to meet with you again. The twentieth is the first open date he has. If you are willing, please let me know.

Cordially,
Lucius Malfoy

After showing the letter to Severus, Heru dashed off a quick reply that specified his Hogsmeade home on the evening of the twentieth. The moment that was out of the way, Severus proceeded to drag every last detail and nuance out of Heru regarding each encounter Harry had had with Voldemort.

Several days later Severus began to outline a plan to his mate, one that had Heru display the beginnings of a smile, one which broadened fractionally with every detail Severus added.

*

As before, they arrived at the Hogsmeade home early so that Heru could manipulate the wards to allow for the entrance of Lucius and Voldemort. This time, however, they arrived early enough that Heru could take a decent nap before their guests appeared. They were ushered into the lounge and Dobby provided refreshments, then Heru got down to business.

“What can I do for you this evening?”

“I had a number of other names I wanted to check,” replied Xavier.

Heru nodded and fetched his scales, spending a short time adjusting them for the type of query, then handed them over. It was reflex for Heru to attempt to reach out across his link, which of course did not work as it was no longer there. His reaction manifested as, not a sheepish smile, but a gentle upturning at the corners of his mouth.

They went through ten names before Heru called for a stop on the same grounds as the previous session. But he didn’t exactly stop, not really.

“You know,” Heru said, eyeing Xavier curiously, “I must wonder about something.” The scales were being jiggled in his hand like some aid to memory or deduction.

“Which is?”

“I wonder why you persist in that ridiculous disguise,” Heru said calmly. “I know who you are. Severus knows who you are. I’m quite sure Lucius knows who you are.”

Xavier arched one of his brows, then flashed a faint smile. “You do not approve?”

Heru shrugged. “I’m sure it’s fine for wandering around incognito, but I would have thought you’d realize I am hardly fooled by it. I cannot decide if you think I am stupid, or abysmally unobservant.”

Xavier tilted his head slightly. “You present varying stances to varying people. You are indeed cunning, especially as you have managed to stay balanced on a very fine line. Even to me you present a picture that undulates back and forth like a snake from light to dark and back again.”

“Fair enough.”

“Since we’re being so open and honest here, let me ask you a question or two.”

“I’ll answer what I can,” said Heru.

After arching his brow again Xavier said, “You removed Severus’s Dark Mark.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I felt like it.” At the look on Xavier’s face, Heru continued, “It presented a challenge.”

“Why,” Xavier said, gesturing around him, “do you live so simply?”

Heru chuckled. “I find it far more advantageous to do so. Were anyone to see my home, they would assume certain things, would they not? As I was far from ready to decide which side of things I wished to stand on, it made sense to be disarming.” Heru wasn’t bothering to watch Lucius’s reactions; Severus would be able to tell him later on.

“I see.” Xavier remained silent for a minute, then said, “And have you come to a decision? Will you stand with your family?”

“I have not. And, I have always stood with my family, though not necessarily in the sense that you mean.”

“Then I shall be blunt. What will it take? Why do you hold back from standing up for the beliefs of our dear Salazar?”

Heru smiled and shook his head gently. “My dear Voldemort, I have yet to see what kind of a leader you truly are, and if you are what I would willingly ally myself with. It may be that I would prefer to further my own view on things independently.”

Xavier’s face took on a faintly calculating aspect. “And Albus Dumbledore?”

“What of him?” Heru spread his hands, careful to keep the scales safely held. “I have performed several small services for him as well, and find it amusing that the majority of his people continue to distrust and malign me. However, they know full well I am not to be trifled with. I am, on the other hand, sickened by the fact that those people go through Albus in order to get at me. They have neither the courage nor cunning to come at me personally or indirectly. I can only assume that Albus has them firmly under his thumb.”

Heru aimed a conspiratorial look at Xavier, then allowed his face to clear to blankness. “But you, my dear Voldemort. . . . I mean no offense, but your manipulations have not assisted me. I have had to fight a great deal of ingrained distrust to get where I am now, comfortably sitting in the camp of the Light.” He could almost feel the amusement radiating off his mate at his use of truth.

“My lord,” Severus interjected quietly, as though hoping for leave to speak further.

Both Heru and Xavier gazed at him, but it was at Heru that Severus was looking, and Heru who spoke. “Yes, Severus?”

“Might I suggest that you sit in on one of the Dark Lord’s assemblies? Perhaps that would further your . . . analysis.”

“What a lovely idea, Severus. Remind me to reward you later.” Heru turned back to Xavier and quirked a brow up.

The skin around Xavier’s eyes was tensed. “So you admit that you have stolen Severus from me,” he hissed.

As I said, it presented a unique challenge to remove the Dark Mark. Of course I kept him when I was done. If I had let you come into direct contact with him after that point, you’d have killed him for his betrayal, and I felt no particular desire to discard him given his qualities. So, if you wish to use that exact term, then yes, I stole him,” Heru hissed back, smiling sweetly. “And, dear cousin, he was fair game at the time, as you were not around to object.”

Qualities?” hissed Xavier.

Surely even you know them. He is loyal, blindingly intelligent, and trustworthy, not to mention a Master of Potions. Like any from Slytherin house, he naturally gravitates to the service of one who can protect him, guide him, and make use of his talents in an appropriate manner.

Xavier frowned and narrowed his eyes. “Why him?” he hissed.

Is that not plainly evident? He held a position at Hogwarts and the headmaster foolishly believes that Severus is actually allied with him. He also trusts in Severus’s ability at judging the character of others, and naturally Severus sees me as someone to recommend. With Severus at my side, I could be reasonably assured that I, too, could gain entrance and take the opportunity to do a bit of reconnoitering.

The two of us together could do great things,” hissed Xavier.

That remains to be seen. As to Severus’s suggestion, what say you?

I will allow it.

Splendid, dear fellow. We’re getting along famously already! I would love the opportunity to find a dark shadow to lurk in while you speak with your people. That way I can watch and not make them feel uncomfortable, and still get a sense of how things are. However, I do believe it should wait until after the term has ended. Things are beginning to become rather hectic in my current role. I would not like to overlook any details which may cause the headmaster to become suspicious, and potentially sunder my advantageous positioning.

Then I will have Lucius provide you with the date, time, and location when the term is over.

Heru stood and smiled. “Very good,” he said, then held out his right hand. Xavier stood and reached out to firmly shake his, then glanced at Lucius, who rose immediately. “Do let me show you the way out,” Heru said, then at the door, “I look forward to hearing from you, my dear man.”

Moments later he was back in the lounge, slumped in a chair. Severus took the scales from his hand and tucked them away in their bag, remaining at Heru’s side in a kneeling position. “Do you want replenishers before you begin the ward manipulation?”

“Please.” He quickly downed the vials Severus handed to him, dropping the empties untidily on the floor, then began shifting the wards.

Severus snorted and vanished the vials, then said, “I think that went well. Very well, in fact.”

“What of Lucius?”

“He is conflicted. It is just as well that Voldemort did not see his face during the discussion, else he would have tried to chastise him. I believe he sees you as being the equal of Voldemort, or more so.”

“Then we should be able to use him if the right circumstances present themselves.”

“I believe so.”

“Go ahead and let Dobby know he can leave. I’ll be done shortly.”

When Severus returned Heru was nearly asleep, but opened his eyes at the sound of footfalls. “I think we should go as quickly as possible, before I am unable. Underlake.” Severus nodded, but waited for Heru to apparate out first.

“I don’t feel so good,” Heru said from his position on the bed. When Severus gave him a curious look he continued, “I’m starting to recognize this reaction. I’m going to be a bastard again tomorrow.”

“This doesn’t make any sense,” Severus snarled, then looked at his mate appraisingly. “Or does it?” At Heru’s expression Severus shook his head and said, “Never mind.” A moment later Heru was gathered up in his arms as he braced himself against the headboard. “Nothing to worry about, my dear Heru. Once you’re feeling better, we’ll talk about it. Until then, I shall ponder the matter.”

“S—all right, Severus.” His mate held him, carding his long fingers through Heru’s hair in measured movements, until he fell asleep. He saw no one the next day aside from Severus and Praecino, who once again stuck close by to soothe him with music as he read or idly watched the water above him.

He felt right as rain by Monday morning and was able to take his meals publicly. That evening, Severus expanded on his original ideas, and once again Heru’s smile widened as he heard what his mate had to say. It all made perfect sense when someone took the time to analyze the facts and explain.

The remainder of the term went by smoothly and swiftly for Heru. A number of his students in his OWL and NEWT level classes were happy to tell him that they felt very confident about how they had done, which pleased Heru to no end. Mark had continued to attend the revision sessions for the Slytherin first years and have Draco as his nominal mentor during them, and Draco had had no more problems with his father requesting anything of him.

It seemed to Heru that once he had made his request to attend a Death Eater meeting that all Draco’s problems had ceased, probably in the expectation that such measures were no longer necessary. A foolish thing to do, perhaps, but one that suited him and Severus nicely.

The students in the remaining years received their yearly exam results on the nineteenth of June, and two days later, all of them were packed and ready to go home with the sole exception of Draco. He came to their quarters early that morning, even before breakfast.

Heru gave him a once-over and said, “Right, then. You still wish to go through with this?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Fine.” Heru crossed to the fireplace and called the kitchens, requesting Dobby. When the house-elf appeared he said, “Dobby, I’d like to ask you for a favor.” He ignored the wide eyes of the teenager.

“Dobby is being happy to listen.”

“We’re going to hide Draco here away for a while, Dobby, so I would like you to provide him with meals and such for as long as necessary. Will you come with us, please, so I can show you where he’ll be staying?”

“Of course, sir.”

“Very good. This way, then,” he said as he headed for the exit. He strode briskly down the serpentine corridors until he reached the inlay, then hissed a request for it to open, which it did. A wave of his hand had his two charges enter, and he followed behind and closed the door.

“All right. As you can see the door only accepts Parseltongue, so I have no doubts as to your safety here, Draco. Nor do I need to worry about you wandering off and getting into trouble.” Heru turned to the elf and asked, “Will you have any problems getting in and out of here, Dobby?”

“No, sir.”

“Then I would like you to listen for Draco’s call and see what he needs. I know you will not help him to leave. If you have any doubts as to what he requests, come see me before you do anything else, all right?” Dobby nodded so Heru continued with, “I would like you to fetch his belongings and bring them here, then provide breakfast for him, please.”

“That is being no problem, sir. Dobby will go right away,” Dobby said, then bowed slightly and popped away.

Heru turned back to the boy, noticing and continuing to ignore the astonished look, and said, “This isn’t much of a room at the moment, but I’ll fix that. What’s here can stay, but obviously you’ll need a bed at the very least.” Heru looked around for a moment, then slipped his wand out from behind his ear and gestured with it. A small bed appeared, hardly a patch on what a student would normally find in the dorms, but given the close confines of the room, it would have to do.

Several more gestures cleaned the room, added linens, and even produced a small dresser. He left the option of unpacking to Draco after Dobby popped in long enough to drop off the boy’s trunk. As an afterthought, he created a small nook in one corner with a self-cleaning toilet. He tucked his wand away as breakfast appeared on the desk and took a seat on the bed.

Fixing an intense gaze on Draco, who had seated himself at the desk, Heru said, “I expect no complaints out of you. You will not ask Dobby to deliver any letters or to pass on any messages unless it is to me or Severus. You will not attempt to exact any kind of misguided revenge on Dobby, either. He can and will show you exactly what a free house-elf is capable of. However, he is at least familiar to you, which is why I chose him to watch over you for the time being. You will treat him with respect. If Dobby comes to me with any outrageous requests from your lips or tales of bad behavior, you can be sure you will feel my displeasure.”

Draco shrank back slightly, but nodded.

“If you need books you do not already own, tell Dobby, and he will inform me. In the meantime, you can begin work on your holiday assignments. As soon as it is safe to do so, I will release you. Do you have any questions?”

“Are you going to hurt my father, sir?”

Heru blinked slowly. “I don’t plan to, no. I expect I may have to threaten him, though. Why do you care?”

“He’s my father, sir,” Draco said.

Heru felt his jaw clench and made a conscious effort to relax it. “I will leave you to your breakfast, then.” He rose silently and stopped in front of the door long enough to hiss it open, then left. Back in his quarters he called Dobby to him again, this time not bothering with the fireplace.

“Dobby, I’ve just left Draco. There are a couple of things I wanted to clarify with you. The only people Draco should be sending messages to are myself and Severus, all right? If he tries to get out of hand, stun him or whatever it is you do, but don’t hurt him. If he asks for anything aside from food, come to me or Severus first so we can approve it. I don’t really expect him to be in there all that long, but it never hurts to be prepared. Obviously, you need to keep quiet about where Draco went if anyone should ask you.”

Dobby nodded his head and gave Heru a toothy smile.

“Thank you, Dobby. I appreciate your help.”

*

The students ate their breakfasts in due time, then left the Great Hall to take care of any last minute details before piling out through the massive main doors and into the waiting carriages. Very few people seemed to have noticed that Draco was even missing, something that caused more than a few faint smirks to erupt on Heru’s and Severus’s faces.

Later in the day, that afternoon, Lucius Malfoy stormed up to the castle and demanded to see the headmaster. Naturally, Heru and Severus were watching via mirror, and naturally, Albus denied any knowledge of the boy’s whereabouts. In fact, he put on a lovely show of genial cluelessness, one that caused Lucius’s face to tighten in unspoken anger. When Lucius said a curt good-bye and made to leave the office, Severus slipped out of their quarters and arranged to be walking through the entrance hall as Lucius stalked down the staircase. As expected, Severus was hailed almost as soon as Lucius noticed him.

“Yes, Lucius?” Severus inquired smoothly.

“Have you seen Draco? He did not return on the train.”

Severus half turned, cast a sidelong glance at Lucius, and murmured, “I do not believe this is the proper place to discuss that.” Then he completed his turn and strode toward the stairs leading into the dungeons. Nothing more was said as they walked to their destination. As soon as they approached the door, Heru banished the mirror to underlake and picked up a copy of The Daily Prophet to read. In less than a minute Severus was seated in his usual chair and Lucius was on the couch, a touch of frustration tingeing his normally cool expression.

“What did you mean?”

Heru folded his paper and placed it on the side table as Severus said, “I know exactly where Draco is.”

“Well?” Lucius demanded, then paled when Heru arched a brow.

“Well what?” asked Severus.

“I would like to know where my son is.”

“That doesn’t concern you any longer,” said Heru calmly. “But I will say that he’s perfectly safe. From, I might add, your anger, and that of Voldemort.”

“What!? Why? How dare you keep my son from me?”

“He asked for it,” Heru said, still perfectly calm. “And, I have the power to assure that I could hide him under your very nose and you would never realize he was there.”

Lucius made a visible effort to regain control, then said, “May I understand this more in detail?”

“Certainly. Your son is very confused and frightened. He came to us asking for protection. Naturally, he had enough sense to avoid Dumbledore. Given that he fears for his life, we agreed to squirrel him away.”

“Fears for his life?” Lucius repeated.

Heru tilted his head and gave Lucius an amused look. “Well, my dear man, wouldn’t you when your father insisted on giving you vague orders and instructions, and you kept fucking them up? Wouldn’t you when Voldemort himself saw fit to administer punishment for your failures? Wouldn’t you be worried about further torture or even death when you continued to fail? Quite frankly, Lucius, either you are extraordinarily bad at explaining things to the boy, or he has none of the qualities which would mark him as a fit servant of Voldemort.”

“He is my heir,” hissed Lucius.

“So? Why should that matter to me?”

“You don’t understand. Narcissa cannot have another child. I must have that boy.”

“What a pretty picture of paternal love you present, Lucius,” Heru said sarcastically. “Given that I have grown passing fond of the child, I agreed to help him. Until I am sure that he will remain safe and whole, I will not release him back to you, simple as that. I really don’t give a damn what you think, either. No one should be forced into service and I get the distinct impression that if the boy should live so long, that’s exactly what would happen. Sometimes I think you have no subtlety, Lucius. Sometimes I despair of you even being a proper Slytherin.”

“Draco is my heir!” Lucius repeated.

“You really don’t want to anger me,” Heru said and smirked as Lucius paled. “I also imagine that you do not want Voldemort to find out about this. Heaven only knows what would happen to you then, though I think I have a very good idea. You, my dear Lucius, are going to accept that your son is out of your reach for an indefinite period of time.”

Lucius drew back slightly, then said, “And what makes you think that my master would not back me up if I were to tell him?”

Heru laughed merrily as Severus snorted in amusement. “Surely you aren’t that stupid, Lucius. Voldemort will punish you for losing control of your son like this. He may even kill you. I very much doubt he would squander the chance to sway me to his side over such a little thing. We have a far better chance of seducing the boy into service, after all. You see, he trusts me and Severus. He doesn’t trust you, or Voldemort. If, in the end, I decide against allying myself with your master, the child will remain with us, and I will hide him from your sight. You would have to wait until he was old enough to make the decision for himself as to whether he wanted to return to be a part of your life, and if he did not, you’d have to find a way to dispose of the lovely Narcissa and find a new wife to breed an heir upon. Either way, I expect your master will be most angry with you.”

Seeing that Lucius was at a bit of a loss, Heru said, “You might be interested to know that your son asked me if I would hurt you.” Malfoy’s eyes came into sharp focus. “When I asked why he cared, he said that you were his father.”

Lucius dropped his gaze, retreating into silence for some time. Heru and Severus waited patiently for him to speak again. “It seems I have no choice.”

“No, you don’t. However, just so that we’re all clear on the matter, why don’t you be a good man and tell me what you’re thinking. Or, would you prefer I force it out of you?”

Lucius paled again, and Heru found that to be an interesting reaction indeed. “You are more powerful than my master.”

“Perhaps. Certainly his equal. So what?”

“I cannot lose my son. Will you allow me to see him from time to time?”

“Whatever for? I thought I made it quite plain already that he is not yours at the moment. I don’t care that he’s your sole heir, Lucius. That isn’t reason enough for me to give you any concessions. If I treated my son as you treat yours, I have no doubt he would have sought an escape even as Draco has.”

“He’s my son,” Lucius said softly.

Heru stifled the urge to roll his eyes and instead pinned the blond with a cold stare. “I grow tired of your evasions, Lucius. I will presently become vexed.”

“I love him.”